Author Archives: Scott Michelman

District court holds Amazon misled consumers with in-app charges; opinion inappropriately redacted

A lot is going on in yesterday's decision in FTC v. Amazon, 2016 WL 1643973 (W.D. Wash. Apr. 26, 2016) — some excellent and some troubling. First, the good news. A Seattle district court held that Amazon engaged in unfair or deceptive practices when it embedded within its apps options to take actions that cost real […]

Short URLs (or “bitlys”) might reveal information about you

Check out this fascinating report in Wired last week, which explains how Cornell Tech researchers cracked the code to shortened URLs from Microsoft and Google and as a result were about to figure out personal information about specific individuals: "By guessing at shortened URLs until they found working ones, the researchers say that they could have […]

New research on troubling consequences of fast-food

Researchers at George Washington University have found that "people who eat fast food tend to have significantly higher levels of certain phthalates, which are commonly used in consumer products such as soap and makeup to make them less brittle but have been linked to a number of adverse health outcomes, including higher rates of infertility, especially […]

Washington Post on child deaths by strangling on blind cords and regulatory “underreach”

More than 300 kids have been killed and almost that many seriously injured when they've gotten tangled up in blind cords, the Post reports. It describes the deaths in chilling fashion: "The deaths are fast and silent. Often, the parent is in the same room and turns away to change a channel or put away […]

Bipartisan bill would protect against taxes on student-loan debt relief

Borrowers who obtain loan forgiveness based on disability or families who have student debt discharged based on the death of a child have to pay taxes on that benefit under current law. Now three senators are pushing for relief. Marketwatch reports, citing the example of "a Maine couple who were able to have their son’s […]

In Post op-ed, a Texas judge outlines alternatives to modern-day debtors prisons

As we've discussed, poor people across the country face incarceration for minor offenses because they can't pay fines and fees. (See here, for instance.) On a more hopeful note, check out the recent op-ed in the Post by Texas municipal court Judge Ed Spillane. Entitled "Why I refuse to send people to jail for failure […]

More on health and poverty (and geography)

Following up on Brian's illuminating post earlier this week about the widening gap in life expectancy between the rich and the poor, two other articles discussing health and the economic divide are worth a read. First, the New York Times, drawing on the same research that Brian flagged, concludes: "The Rich Live Longer Everywhere. For the […]

Maryland becomes second state to ban non-disparagement clauses

Earlier this year, we flagged Maryland's pending legislation (H.B. 131) to protect the rights of consumers to speak up — critically, if they like — about the businesses they have done business with. California passed a similar bill in 2014. So did the U.S. Senate in 2015; the federal bill now awaits action in the […]

Shining a light on hospital decisions to credential doctors with troubled records

Patients of Dr. Allen Sossan of South Dakota claim that he performed unnecessary medical procedures or performed procedures improperly on them. They sued Dr. Sossan and the hospitals that credentialed him. One of the claims is that the hospitals wrongfully credentialed Dr. Sossan to practice medicine at their institutions despite knowing that he had lost […]